In Which I Swear, Repeatedly, or, TorontoEmerg Gets Bullied

I write this blog for a number of reasons: my own amusement, to educate, to share various random thoughts, to tell stories, to stimulate discussion on topics important to nursing, to provoke thought beyond the superficial, to challenge assumptions, and lastly, to rant.

Today I am going to rant.

Those of you with delicate sensibilities may want to get out. I am going to use some earthy language. Repeatedly.

So, to begin: I love my colleagues with the generous love I share with my family, but like some of family, they can be gaping assholes.

I’ve been seconded again for more administrivia duties. Since part of what I’m doing will have focus on improving quality of nursing work life, I am very excited and eager to do this. I believe making our work places better for nurses will, in the end, save nursing as a profession.

For this work, I needed to buy some markers. With the manager’s permission I (innocently) ordered a pack of multi-coloured, fine point Sharpies, which with the wholesaler’s discount came to $6.35 (six dollars and thirty-five cents) plus HST, and charged them to the departmental budget.

The markers arrived on my day off.

Then the nattering started, which (from reports) quickly escalated from a simple “why were these markers ordered?” to attacks on my integrity, discussions about my worth as nurse, and lurid suggestions I was dogging it.

From the reaction, you might have thought I was running a child prostitution ring in the Resus Room, and was using departmental petty cash for start-up costs. It was that bad.

One of my colleagues, a woman I previously thought as an ally, was incredibly hostile. “Why” she asked, “couldn’t you buy your own?” Of course, her anger left me slack-jawed and stupid and the correct answer escaped me at the moment: for the same reason I don’t buy my own kidney basins and bath flannels.

Yes, it was bullying, and afterwards, I reflected on the irony that so soon after writing on the subject I should become a victim of it myself.

So, it was hurtful.  But mostly it really, deeply pissed me off. Remember, I’ve been working with some of these nurses for ten years or more.

I know I’m a damn good nurse, and you’re lucky to have me, so fuck off.

I’m working hard to make your lives easier as nurses, so again, fuck off.

And yeah, I know about horizontal violence and the rest of that, but the bottom line: you are responsible for your behaviour. Stop being a high school gossip queen — and for some of you, you’re closer to retirement than your senior prom — and start being a nurse. Because when you undermine me or anyone of your nurse-colleagues, you’re really undermining yourself.

Another colleague, far more sympathetic, suggested that nurses have been doing it to each since Florence was beating the carpets at Scutari, and we are never going to stop acting, collectively, jerks.

I fear she may be right.

So I say again to those nurses who found it fun and interesting to shred my character in a few minutes time: um, fuck off. And fuck you. You aren’t worth my time.

End of rant. Thank you for your attention.


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  1. #1 by DM on Monday 13 June 2011 - 1248

    Sorry you had to endure this. Unfortunately you’re right in saying that we have all had to put up with this pettiness. I’ve always thought the profession suffers from such behavior. Hard to call yourself a profession when you behave like high-schoolers. Be mindful that the day will pass, but not the sour taste

  2. #2 by Denise on Monday 13 June 2011 - 1341

    Well, at this point in my life I have come to
    the unchallengeable conclusion that most
    folk are only happy when nattering about and
    shredding the personalities of everyone ’round
    them… coworkers, neighbours or family.
    Use to think my father was just grumpy when
    he told me this will almost always happen…
    no good deed will go unpunished, most of the
    time anyways.

  3. #3 by Jenn Jilks on Monday 13 June 2011 - 1409

    I’m thinking this is a female issue, with women not knowing how to handle having another woman in a position of authority.
    I’ve been bullied by women who were unsure of themselves, whose only means of building themselves up consists in putting other women down.
    Al the best.

  4. #4 by Miss-elaine-ious on Tuesday 14 June 2011 - 0040

    Sorry you were bullied. I hear you sista!

  5. #5 by The Nerdy Nurse on Tuesday 14 June 2011 - 0055

    Sometimes you just need to rant.

    I’ve seen this happen, and about office supplies as well.
    It is almost as if ordering that box of markers costs someone a 2 cent raise somewhere down the line gives the right to say whatever they darn well please about you. It somehow gives them the authority to walk all over you and pick apart every single detail of you, your nursing care, and your critical thinking abilities.
    I’ve been there. Unfortunately I had significantly less experiences as a nurse and therefor did often doubt my abilities and often myself self worth because of them.
    We have to stop doing this to each other.
    We have to stop acting like jerks.
    We owe it to our patients, each other, and ourselves!

  6. #6 by L on Wednesday 15 June 2011 - 1051

    Hospitals are the only workplaces I’ve come across where you are expected to supply your own pens/pencils. We’re even expected to contribute to the fundraising for equipment, but that’s another topic for discussion. I’ve found that the major motivating forces are jealousy and oo ignorance. So tough shit to them.

  7. #7 by cartoon characters on Wednesday 15 June 2011 - 1243

    It’s discouraging when the work environment you are trying to improve is being torn apart by those who would benefit.

    My gf was off sick for a month – cardiac problems and other issues that required hospitalization, and one of her co-workers started gossiping that she was making it all up just to get time off. Funny thing is, my gf is the only one with a near perfect attendance record in a crowd of nurses that continually call in sick.

    Some people live to tear others down.

  8. #8 by DOEcomic on Thursday 16 June 2011 - 0943

    You only dropped the f-bomb 4 times. Not enough to scatter my delicate being. Consider me still a follower.

  9. #9 by DOEcomic on Thursday 16 June 2011 - 0944

    wow… Scatter? I meant shatter… sleep is a wonderful thing and should not abandoned.

  10. #10 by allinet on Friday 17 June 2011 - 1432

    Been there, done something similar. Used to open new box of pens every time I couldn’t find one at desk, then hand out the rest. And yes, the pens were locked up finally and only unit secretary had key. Until I requested a key that is.

    • #11 by torontoemerg on Saturday 18 June 2011 - 1106

      I need to write a post —- on the insanity of stationery. It’s wild.

  11. #12 by Tessa on Wednesday 22 June 2011 - 0217

    I would guess your peers are jealous of your new authoruty. Perhaps they believe this task should have gone to them if they have been there longer or have higher credenrials. Or maybe – they are just miserable in their own life and take it out on you, Or – maybe they are just bitches…I speak from experience as I have been a nurse for 18 years… I would also like to say that nurses in these parts cuss like a sailor. I try not to do it in front of a patient, but if a frequent flier comes in and they only have 1 good vein and it blows – i have been known to say “sh*t”. That is a bad example, but my point is it happens and this is your blog and you can vent all you want!

    • #13 by torontoemerg on Thursday 23 June 2011 - 1210

      The only time I have ever sworn in front of a patient was when a patient suddenly went asystole right before my eyes, which was greated with a hearty “Fuck”. The patient was unresponsive in any case by the time.

  12. #14 by Eileen on Thursday 23 June 2011 - 0453

    Do believe there was a warning early on. Those who chose to read on in a private place have only themselves to blame if it offends.

  13. #15 by Nightingale is my Homegirl on Saturday 02 July 2011 - 1851

    I know exactly what fine-tip sharpie markers you’re talking about.

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